It’s hot out. No, let me rephrase that… it’s really REALLY hot outside – and my ac unit is going full steam and really struggling to try to keep us cool inside.
I saw this post / picture on Facebook the other day that claims that shading your outside AC unit with a vented umbrella or canopy can help your air conditioning system run better and make your home more comfortable during these super hot summer months. But… does it WORK?
Updated on July 21, 2022
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Will Your AC Unit Work Better If You Shade It?
That’s the question of the day here in the midst of a VERY hot summer in this house.
And it all started with this innocent looking post I saw on Facebook:
The post says:
Will your air conditioner work better when it’s under shade?
Yes, according to the Department of Energy.
Some Texan residents have started doing this years ago to help their HVAC unit during the hot Texas summer temps.
Some residents say it has made a very noticeable difference in their cooling and electric bill.
They drive a metal fence post pipe in the ground next to the HVAC unit and place a patio umbrella (vented top) in to give it shade.
The tilt style patio umbrellas and canopies allow you to adjust the angle of the shade…
Make sure the top of the metal fence post is 13” – 15” above your HVAC unit.
Make sure not to restrict air flow.
You can drill holes in the pipe to secure the umbrella on the windy days.
Some say lowering it at night and wrap a bungee cord around the umbrella.
Maybe this can be of help to someone else.
To me, it makes sense, but wow at the controversy over that idea.
It’s really hard to find out if shading your AC unit actually DOES work, is just a myth – or if it’s not a good idea at all.
My first concern was limited air flow AROUND my AC unit – I have a fairly basic understanding of how it works so I know that if that air and ventilation around the unit is restricted, it can cause your unit to overwork, overheat – and burn out.
I absolutely do NOT want that to happen!
An air conditioner unit is expected to last around 15- 20 years – and I promise you, I want FORTY years out of mine haha!
So, destroying my unit is NOT an option.
I’ve done some research on this topic, and turns out…
1. YES, the U.S. Department of Energy DOES say “shading the outside unit can increase its efficiency by up to 10%”
2. Bob Villa, my favorite DIY Guy, says “Shading your air conditioner can reduce energy costs by as much as 50 percent…”
Alrighty, now I’m on to something…
It sounds like it DOES work!
Oh but wait… there’s more to this story…
3. Direct Energy called it a “myth” and goes on to say – “…in 1996, researchers from the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) published Measured Impacts of Air Conditioner Condenser Shading that showed that the benefits are actually trivial when you wade into the details and do some comparing.”
4. Texas Monthly has a WHOLE article about this very topic – to sum it up, they said – “…no, shading your condenser unit with an umbrella will not make a difference in how effectively it cools. In fact, it could make it run worse.”
5. KY3 News has this article that says – “Putting an umbrella over your AC is about the worst thing you can do, and it’s not going to shade the unit or help it run any better at all…”
Now I am REALLY confused – does it work or NOT?
So off I went to the best place for good advice – Reddit.com
And that’s where I got the final answer as to whether or not you should shade your AC unit with an umbrella to help it run better – and the answer that ultimately helped me decide if I would try it or not.
mattjammar in the HVAC Advice subreddit said:
Internet trend, and a bad one at that.
Those units are designed to vent out the top to the sky unobstructed; the umbrella will redirect a bit of the hot air it’s putting off back down to the unit reducing it’s efficiency.
DON’T DO IT.
I told my Aunt all this the other day and she refuses to believe this does not work!
She lives out in California in the LA area and says “everyone does it here so it MUST work!”
I really do try to respect my elders, but I had to push this one a little.
I asked her, “How do you KNOW it works? what if it’s actually making your AC run WORSE?”
Needless to say, she did NOT want to hear me questioning her so I told her to call and talk to a Professional about this to be SURE she was not damaging her AC unit.
She was stumped for a moment than asked me WHO she should call.
Darn woman, do you not have GOOGLE? haha!
But, back to that respect my elders thing and I just sweetly said, “well, an air conditioner repair company in Los Angeles is a good place to start”
Yes, sarcasm was dripping from my voice, but she got my point.
Long story short, she DID call an HAVC guy near her and he said, “NO! Do NOT shade your AC unit!”
So, there’s that… and NO, I will NOT be shading my AC unit.
In my opinion, this is a myth that might cause more harm than good.
So – What DOES work to help your air conditioner work better in extreme heat?
Turns out it’s VERY simple – and something I’ve never thought about doing.
And it is NOT an umbrella or canopy OVER your AC unit-VIDEO BELOW.
Watch this HVAC guy on TikTok explain how to help your AC unit work better when it’s REALLY hot (like it is in Texas, where he lives and works):
@thewilliebeast #stitch with @lowlifelexi #texas #heat #hvac ♬ original sound – Aaron the tik tok handyman
Yep, you heard that right, simply WASHING out your AC unit works BETTER than putting an umbrella over it to cover it and shade it!
So many THANKFUL comments to his helpful video:
My thermostat was reading 78-81. I went out there and washed it off. IT HELD AT 71 all day and I’m in south Louisiana. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!
And this thankful reply to the video above”
That’s exactly what my AC guy did and it works wonders now!! I didn’t know that’s all I had to do. I had to pay $250 for him to use my hose and water
Just your house garden hose works BETTER than putting an awning or umbrella to cover your AC unit in the summer – WOW!
Should your outdoor AC unit be in the shade?
No, your outdoor AC unit does NOT have to be in the shade if you know how to protect your unit from extreme sunlight and heat like you learned in the video above.
As a certified HVAC tech myself, he’s 100% correct
THAT is what I’ll be doing – and I’ll tell my Aunt to do this too =)
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